Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is under fire for a series of inflammatory statements he’s made in recent days about protecting our “superior civilization” from immigrants “living in enclaves” and “refusing to assimilate.” But when it comes to curbing immigration, King isn’t all talk. He’s also built a miniature model wall for the southern border and says he’s ready to have his family’s construction company in Iowa start work on the real thing. In a recent interview with Yahoo News, King said he has presented his plans to President Trump and showed off his model to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
“I built that model more than 10 years ago because people were saying, ‘We can’t build it. It’s too hard.’ And so I just put the model together,” King explained, adding, “I just put it together piece by piece to show them how easy it is to build a wall.”
The congressman founded King Construction, which does residential and commercial projects, in 1975. It is currently headed by his son, Dave. King has already prepared an estimate for the job in case the government wants to consider giving his family firm the contract.
“I’m not interested in being the construction company that does this, but my little old company has the capability to build a mile of it a day. And so, what I envision is, I want to ask President Trump, ‘How tall do you want it, and you take care of making it beautiful,’” King said. “I have also put together an estimate on this, and it’s sophisticated. It’s like six pages long.”
He further explained that his company has “enough people” for the job.
“We could do it. We’re not asking to do it, but our company, I don’t have to hire an extra man. We’ve got enough people, especially in the wintertime, it’s a little slack and we could build it a mile a day,” he said.
At a mile a day, working 365 days a year, building a 2,000-mile wall would take a little under six years.
King believes the project would “pay for itself” by reducing the need to spend on other border-security measures as well as curbing illegal immigration and the flow of illegal drugs. He suggested his company could make the wall at whatever height Trump wanted.
“If he wants to have it 14 feet tall, we’ll do that. If he wants it 20, we’ll do that. If he wants it 30, we’ll do that. And I have to adjust the unit prices accordingly, but the design is something I don’t think anybody else has done,” King said. “It’s designed to be built with a footing that’s dug with a trencher and a slip form. So we’ll have, let’s say, a 5-foot-deep or more toe wall in it and a slot in the footing so we can just drop precast panels in that’ll be tongue and groove. Bing, bing, bing, and you just build a wall.”
During last year’s presidential race, King was a staunch supporter of Trump, who has called for building a wall on the southern border. King displayed the model border wall when he met with Kelly in January and tweeted out a picture of the demonstration. He would not discuss Kelly’s thoughts on his model.
“He can answer for his own opinion on that. I won’t represent what he had to say,” King said of the homeland security secretary.
Yahoo News spoke to King about his model border wall when he came to the East Room of the White House on Jan. 31 to watch Trump introduce his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. At the time, King suggested we could follow up with his staff and arrange a videotaped presentation of the model in his office. His staff did not respond to subsequent requests. However, King’s plan for the border is notable in light of the uproar over his recent comments, including a tweet he sent on Sunday in which he expressed support for far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders and declared, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
King’s tweet provoked widespread criticism from political figures including fellow Republicans and drew expressions of support from white nationalists. He repeated the sentiment on Monday morning in an interview with CNN’s “New Day,” asserting that “Western civilization is a superior civilization.” While King suggested we need to “share” this “civilization” with others, he doubled down on the idea that “you cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
“You’ve got to keep your birth rate up, and … you need to teach your children your values, and in doing so, then you can grow your population and you can strengthen your culture,” he said.
King has presented his model border wall on the floor of the House of Representatives. In one July 2006 speech where he showed off the wall, King said it was necessary because the flow of illegal drugs is a bigger “force” on the southern border than people coming to the United States in search of jobs.
“A lot of it is not just the force of people that want to come here for a better life, not people that just want to pick lettuce or tomatoes or go work in a sheetrock crew or whatever,” King said. “Sixty-five billion dollars’ worth of illegal drugs. … That’s another force, and that force is far more powerful than the desire for people to change their lifestyle.”
During that speech, King assembled his model wall on the House floor to demonstrate how easily the prefabricated concrete panels could be installed and removed.
“You could take it back down if somehow … they got their economy working and got their laws working in Mexico. We could pull this back out just as easy as we could put it in, and we could open it up again. We could open it up and let livestock run through there, whatever we choose,” he said.
King’s model is topped with a coil of mock barbed wire. In his 2006 speech, he explained that this could be electrified as an additional deterrent.
“I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them would be to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top or put a ladder there,” King said. “We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn’t kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.”
On the House floor, King said he envisioned a wall that would be 12 feet high. He said it would be feasible to construct this type of wall on the “roughly” 2,000-mile-long southern border at a cost of $1.3 million a mile. He didn’t discuss potential costs in his brief conversation with Yahoo News but said he created the model to show it’s “not hard and it’s not too expensive.” Using the estimates King presented in the 2006 speech and adjusting those figures for inflation, it would cost more than $3.1 billion to put his wall on 2,000 miles of the border. That is far cheaper than other projections.
During his campaign, Trump said he could build a wall along the border for $12 billion. According to Reuters, an internal Department of Homeland Security report estimated it would cost up to $21.6 billion to build a wall and fencing on the border. There is currently about 650 miles of fencing on the frontier.
King told Yahoo News he hasn’t shown Trump the model wall, but he said he has discussed the proposal with the president. He isn’t certain, but he is optimistic that Trump appreciates his proposal.
“In those conversations, it’s hard to determine how he envisions it,” King said of Trump. “I haven’t set drawings in front of him, but he’s a builder and he understands it. So I think that the design I have is one that will build it as effective as anyone and cheaper than anyone, and that’s pretty much the Trump approach to building things, isn’t it? Build them and get them in under cost, ahead of schedule, and build them good.”
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